House bill to consolidate flood prone NC areas gets panel approval
Legislation that would spend $ 220 million in part to shore up highways, rivers and flood-prone coastal areas so North Carolina can better weather the next big storm authorized a House committee on Tuesday.
Some environmental groups have also given their support to the “Disaster Relief and Mitigation Act”, pushed in part by Majority Leader John Bell, a Republican from Wayne County. Historic flooding during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018 destroyed homes and businesses near swollen rivers and destroyed dams and lakes.
“This is one of the largest proactive statewide flood mitigation investments North Carolina has ever made,” Bell told the House environment committee before the panel does not recommend the measure without opposition. “It will help us get out of the costly post-disaster spending cycle … We know that every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation saves money in the future.”
The bill includes nearly $ 70 million for improvements along the Lumber and Neuse rivers and for some private land buybacks. The bill sets aside a portion of these funds to help certain communities affected by these recent storms, even some whose very survival was threatened.
For example, there would be $ 3.5 million to build a seawall at Fair Bluff, which was overrun by the Lumber River during Matthew and Florence. With $ 5.2 million, a dike would also be built to protect Seven Springs, whose recent flooding along the Neuse River dates back to Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Bell said these communities and others are still worth the effort. worth being saved, even as owners and businesses in further flooding. -the prone areas have decided to leave for good.
There are “new opportunities” to rebuild smarter, Bell told reporters. “You cannot abandon the house. The bill also contains $ 14 million for repairing the dam at Boiling Spring Lakes and $ 5 million for storm damage at the waterfront in Southport, both located in Brunswick County.
The State Office of Recovery and Resilience, created in late 2018 and designed to distribute long-term federal recovery dollars in the aftermath of these storms, would take on expanded functions if legislation becomes law. Bell said the bill would allow the Emergency Management Division to focus fully on managing preparedness for approaching storms and responding to their immediate consequences. Both agencies are part of the administration of Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.
The Office of Recovery and Resilience would become the state’s lead agency for dealing with flood prevention and mitigation efforts. The office would also be responsible for proposing a “statewide flood resilience plan” for the major watersheds. Bell said the bill reflects comments from leaders of communities in North Carolina that have been hit hard by recent storms.
The measure has the backing of the Environmental Defense Fund and heads of state of other conservation groups – a rare occurrence since Republicans took control of the General Assembly a decade ago.
“We are pleased to see this bill’s forward-looking and coordinated approach to resilience,” Will Robinson of The Nature Conservancy in North Carolina told the committee. “We appreciate the sponsor’s commitment to natural solutions as a tool in the toolbox to… prepare our state to better cope with flooding. “
The measure, which is now heading to another committee locates $ 30 million for coastal storm mitigation and $ 20 million for grants to restore floodplains and wetlands. An additional $ 20 million would also go to grants to state and local governments and nonprofits to consolidate roads and assess their disaster risk.
Tuesday’s committee debate did not address the reasons for the increase in coastal and river flooding from both hurricanes and small storms, such as climate change. Bell said this would have turned the discussion “into a political and ideological battle”.